Afraid to Take My New iPhone Out of the Box

Scared that playing with my new toys would ruin them

Posted Dec 04, 2011

iPhone with box
My new iPhone came in the mail a few weeks ago. I told my sister that it had arrived, and the next day she IM-ed me to see how I liked it.

"I haven't used it yet," I wrote. "It's still in the box."

"Like your Cabbage Patch Kids?" she wrote back, just as I was in the middle of typing "Like my Cabbage Patch Kids."

When I was in third grade, Cabbage Patch Kids hit the scene at Hillside Elementary School. At first, before they were so popular that you couldn't get them, I thought they were kind of ugly and didn't want one. And by the time I realized I had to have one, it was too late in the cycle of supply and demand and they were nowhere to be found.

It seemed like everyone had Cabbage Patch Kids except for me. My friends would bring them to school and cart them around the playground as I stared longingly at their yarn hair and pudgy arms, now beautiful. Rachel Berman* had a Cabbage Patch sleepover party and you had to bring your doll. Several of the girls at the party had two or three, and I showed up without one at all but with a smile plastered on my face, determined not to let my misery show.

My Dad worked in New York City and when a new shipment of Cabbage Patch Kids came into the Toys"R"Us down the block, one of the other lawyers would run into the office and announce the news. Then all the Dads including mine would race to the store, but by the time they got there they were greeted by empty shelves.

After Rachel's sleepover party, my Mom got me Cabbage Patch Kids sheets in an attempt to cheer me up. My parents were recently divorced, and one night after another failed Cabbage Patch mission to Toys"R"Us, my Dad came over to break the news to me. I was curled up in a ball on my bed crying and my Dad said, "But look at the Cabbage Patch Kids on your sheets. That should make you feel better."

"It just," I sniffed, "makes it more painful!" and broke into a fresh round of sobbing.

Finally though, my Dad was successful at Mission Cabbage Patch, and he triumphantly brought over my new doll. Her short hair was mousy brown and she was wearing a pink and white track suit instead of a dress, but I loved her anyway. Christina Eartha was the name printed on her birth certificate. I couldn't wait for Rachel Berman to throw another party.

One weekend at my Dad's, my younger sister and I were playing in the parking lot behind his apartment building. I'd brought my new doll, and a girl from the neighborhood grabbed her out of my hands and started tossing her up into the air. She flew up and down, up and down until...the girl reached out her arms and missed, and Christina Eartha fell crashing to the ground and landed on her face! I picked her up and saw that her perfect nose had chipped off. My heart sank and I blinked back tears. How could I bring her to Rachel's party now?

As time went on, I got more Cabbage Patch Kids. First there was Kurt Gus, a bald baby boy in a matching brown corduroy jacket and pants. Then there was Simone with beautiful blonde hair and a blue and red gingham dress with a white apron. And then there was a teeny-tiny Preemie in a pink onesie.

After what had happened in the parking lot, I kept all my new dolls with their perfectly in-tact noses pristine in their boxes, lined up against the wall in my bedroom. I'd take them out to play, but when I was done I put them back in their packaging. To be safe, I never brought them to the parking lot or playground, to school or sleepover parties. And I gave Christina Eartha to my sister so I wouldn't have to be confronted with her chipped imperfection anymore.

A day after the FedEx man had delivered my iPhone, it still sat on my kitchen chair in its box, plastic wrap and all.

At first I hadn't wanted an iPhone. As someone who was addicted to checking email, I didn't think it would be good for me to be able to check it all the time. Also, I prided myself on not needing shiny new things. And then, just as suddenly as I'd needed to have a Cabbage Patch Kid, I needed to have an iPhone. But as someone who was broke, I couldn't afford one or the higher monthly phone bill from having a data plan.

However, this year for my birthday, I got a gift a money to buy an iPhone, and another gift of money to pay for the first month of my higher data plan phone bill. Plus my old non-smartphone, which I liked to refer to as my low self-esteem phone, would shut off for no reason when I was in the middle of a call or composing a text, so I had no more excuses. At last, I took the leap and ordered an iPhone 4S.

After a week of sitting in its box on my chair, I finally unwrapped my new phone and reluctantly activated it. But I was afraid to play with my new toy. My strategy for dealing with being broke is depriving myself of nice, new things. So as much as I dislike my low self-esteem phone and poor self-worth ripped pajamas, having possessions that are falling apart feels comfortable and familiar. Having expensive things that could get ruined feels frightening.

Treating myself to new items that I can't afford to replace also sets off my OCD; I vigilantly protect my purchases and obsess over every scratch or knick, which robs me of my ability to enjoy them. So I was trying to delay the inevitable vigilance and obsession that was sure to accompany my new iPhone once it was out of the box and in use.

But with the exception of a few times when people reached for my phone and I thought, Take your hands off my Cabbage Patch Kid--um--iPhone!, I've actually been able to enjoy playing with my new toy. Not that I get my self-esteem from material possessions, but having a shiny new smartphone instead of my old broken stupid phone helps me feel more put-together, organized, and successful. And slowly but surely I'm dealing with the discomfort of letting go of self-deprivation as I replace my falling-apart possessions one by one. I'm learning to feel deserving of having nice new things, and safe enough to take them out of their boxes and into the parking lot of life to play.

*Name has been changed

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